The Negotiator Magazine

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Training Participants in a Principled Negotiation Approach

ICON provides individuals with the ability to think strategically about negotiation, about making choices and decisions proactively while continually building collaborative working relationships. Our teaching, training and consulting helps move negotiators quickly from reflection to action. One critical practice session in our negotiation training involves helping participants develop their "ICON dialogue" skills. Participants practice forming statements that fit each of these four elements. The practice of ICON is actually accomplished by having students and participants script out their most challenging negotiation conversations and replay them with co-participants who have been prepared to coach one another.

Whether our clients are high-level corporate executives, union-management negotiators or graduate students, they find it difficult to escape a common dilemma: often the words they use in negotiations don't have the impact they intend. The wrong language can lead to poor results and can damage working relationships. It is difficult to deliver a hard message. (Stone, Patton and Heen) We all have faced the challenge of crafting a message that communicates our desire to satisfy legitimate needs while also seeking to build a key relationship.

While several negotiation training methods focus on tactics meant to provide advantage to one side, engaging in an "ICON dialogue" permits negotiators to have a rich range of responses in any negotiation situation. This enables participants to learn and practice the skill of principled negotiation in a training session.

Once participants are skilled at "ICON dialogue" we teach them strategies for persuading the other party to adopt a principled negotiation approach. Being able to put the ICON elements into play requires dialogue about how the parties will negotiate with each other and what choices they can make about the negotiation process.


ICON is simple to understand and to implement. Our clients report to us that they use ICON for the mundane as well as the exceptional negotiations in their lives. We have found that ICON frees experienced and novice negotiators alike from becoming bogged down in process problems. They are better able to devote their energies to coming up with imaginative and practical solutions. ICON has worked for business people, parents, tenants, job seekers -- in fact it is for everyone.

ICON was originally conceived as a learning device for concisely conveying the key components to wise decision-making in negotiations. Participants often report that ICON is the most memorable aspect of their training on negotiation and one that permitted them to think strategically about negotiation choices. For them, ICON made principled negotiation an accessible and practical alternative to many conflict situations in their professional and personal lives.

Grande Lum is a founding principal of ThoughtBridge, LLC, a consulting firm that helps people and businesses achieve innovative solutions to their most vexing negotiation problems. Anthony Wanis-St. John is on the full-time faculty at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations and an affiliated consultant with ThoughtBridge. With Irma Tyler-Wood, they have written the forthcoming book Expand the Pie: How to Create More Value in Any Negotiation [ISBN: 0-9653869-7-X] published by Castle Pacific, which features the ICON approach. You may visit their web site at


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